Recording Your Track Video

Track Video Glyph

When your run group gets the call to grid up you've got to get into your car and be ready to drive within five minutes. Even if you are prepared you still make those last minute checks of the car - the tires, the hood is closed and latched, the windows are down, loose items are out of the car, you've got enough fuel, etc. Then you get in, buckle up, helmet on, chin strap, visor or sun glasses, gloves, and so on, and you try to settle down and get into the right frame of mind for driving. And if you're really getting into this sport you might have a data acquisition system. Did you start it? Do you have a video camera in the car? Is it on, focused, and recording? Are you using external mics? Are they connected and turned on? Wouldn't it be nice to have a crew that took care of all that stuff?

Even when you've done lots of track events all this sort of stuff goes through your mind at the last minute, and you know that all you should be thinking about is driving. It's a little embarrassing to start heading out onto the track and your instructor turns your radio or your A/C off for you. Oops. It's just a little thing, but little things matter in this sport.

What I'm working towards here is that with the demands of driving you have added capturing video. Once you get out on track you'll completely forget about it, but its the little extra distraction before that that can shake your confidence and concentration. But you get past that, and you drive well, then back in the pits you realize you messed up one little thing and now the video is crap, or you have no audio. This has happened to me many times.

Here are a few tips pits to help avoid these problems:

Test Everything
Install and test everything before you get to the track. Go out on the freeway a bit and record video and audio, then check it on your TV or computer monitor, some display that is large enough to let you see the image clearly. Don't trust the little LCD screen on your camcorder for focus.

When reviewing the video try to remain detached enough to be able to pick out any technical problems. For example, is the camera really aimed straight ahead? Is it tilted maybe just a little bit? Check the colors and see if the sun causes problems or if glare off the dash its too much. As for audio, is it clear and is it the sound you wanted? Should you try another mic location? And do you hear the hiss and crackle of a mic that is being pushed past its sound level limits? Finally, are there any extraneous noises in the car, caused by things like your car keys of a lens cap? If so, take care of that.

Pre-grid Check
At the track, well before your run group is called, check the video and audio. If you have a monitor you can connect to the camera, great, but if not, just go with the camera's LCD display. For audio, use headphones to see if the audio is good. The camera's speaker will let you confirm that you have sound, but that's about it.

Also do a quick check of the camera's settings. Is manual focus turned on and is it focused and zoomed out? If you are using a polarizer, is it adjusted to give the results you want. Is auto white balance on or off? Finally, do you have enough life left in the batteries and do you have enough room on tape or whatever media your camera records to?

Make a checklist and use it. Checklist can really help and it will take a lot of pressure off.

Green Flag
When you finally get the signal and it is your turn to go you shouldn't have to do any thing else with the video system. What I mean is it should already be on and recording. Don't worry about trying to not waste a few minutes of tape, which is something I used to do.

If you are going to wait until you are already gridded up, and the cars ahead of you have started going out, before you start recording, then having a remote control of some kind can really help. I didn't have any remote control back when I started videoing my sessions and it was really difficult to turn the camera on while wearing a helmet, gloves, and sitting in Sparco seats. LANC has helped a lot, and my IR remote. Using these I can just press a button then check my mirror to see if the red light on my camera is on, indicating that it is recording.

While on track, just drive. Forget the video system. Ok, maybe don't forget it completely. You might be driving a particular line, or maybe you are following someone, because you want that on camera, so along with lap times and all it is just one of your objectives. But just as lap times are a results of good driving and not the other way around, keep your priorities straight.